6 Day Race

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The 6-Day Race became a standard footrace distance in the 1870s and was a popular form of entertainment where up to 70,000 paying visitors, in 1877, came to watch the Pedestrians battle it out. However the widespread use of the bicycle from 1890 caused it to be replaced as spectator sport by cycle races of the same duration.[1] It was in two forms: strict "heel-and-toe" racewalking, or "go-as-you-please" combination of walking, jogging, running.


Edward Payson Weston in 1867 walked from Portland, Maine to Chicago, Illinois in 26 days, a distance of 2,134 km (1,326 mi), earning him $10,000 and national fame. In 1874 Weston walked his first 6-day race and was challenged by Daniel O'Leary, who completed 500 miles (800 km) in 153 hours. The big battle took place in Chicago in November 1875 with O'Leary emerging victorious with 503 miles (810 km) and Weston finished with 451 miles (726 km).[2]

Edward Payson Weston (right) and Daniel O'Leary in their fight in 1877 at the Agricultural Hall in London

In a re-match in 1877 O'Leary was victorious again and the excitement created enough interest for Sir John Dugdale Astley, a British Member of Parliament, to inaugurate a series of 6 day races to determine the "Long distance Champion of The World". These became known as the "Astley Belt" races and cash prizes were offered. O'Leary won the first two and was thwarted by Charles Rowell in his quest for three in a row. Weston won the fourth, setting a record of 550 miles (890 km) and Rowell won the final three multiday races to permanently keep the Astley Belt.

The 1879 World Championship[edit]


P. Athlete Nationality Miles Km
1 George Guyon  Canada 480¼ 772.89
2 Frederick Krohne  United States 461 742
3 John P. Colston  Sweden 452 and 1/5 727.5
4 Charles Faber  United States 450⅛ 724.6
5 Ben Curran  United States 438¼ 705.1
6 Peter N. Campana  United States 401⅓ 645.8
7 W.H. Davis  United States 225 362.1

Intermediate results:

  • 24 hours: Guyon 105 miles; Faber 100; Byrne 95; Washington 93.5; Krohne 91; Campana 86; Colston 82; Curran 80; Urann 78; Kent 75; Forrester 67.5; Davis 60. Retired: Cotton (60) and Stark (52).
  • 48 hours: Guyon 187 miles; Faber 178; Krohne 172; Campana 165; Washington 161; Curran 159; Colston 150; Kent 142; Forrester 118; Davis 102. Retired: Byrne (104) and Urann.
  • 72 hours: Guyon 267 miles; Krohne 254; Faber 250; Campana 236; Colston 226; Curran 224; Washington 213; Kent 211; Davis 152
  • 96 hours: Guyon 345 miles; Krohne 335; Faber 314; Colston 300; Curran 296; Campana 292; Davis 188.

In 1880, Fred Hitchborn set a new record of 565 miles (909 km) earning $17,000 dollars, a fortune at the time.

Between 26 November and 1 December 1888, George Littlewood of Sheffield, England, created a new world record of 623 miles 1,320 yards—a record world that wasn't beaten for 96 years.

By the early 1890s the six-day races were in decline and no longer drawing the public or offering large prizes.

It wasn't until Don Choi hosted a 6-day race in 1980 in California that interest began to grow again. Briton Mike Newton became the first man to cover 500 miles/800 km in a modern 6-day race at Nottingham in November 1981. In 1982, Tom O’Reilly took the 6-day total to 576 miles/927 km. In 1984 Yiannis Kouros twice ran over 1,022 km (635 mi) setting a new world record that would stand until 2005 when he broke his own record again with 1,036 km (644 mi) at the Cliff Young Australian 6-day race in Colac, Australia.

The first women's 6-day race took place in 1879 and was won by Bertha Von Berg with 372 miles (599 km). Sandra Barwick set the current women's World Best of 883.631 kilometres (549.063 mi) in November 1990 at the Campbelltown Australian 6 Day Race.[3]

Current 6-Day Races[edit]


  1. ^ Noakes, T. D., (2006) Basic Research in Cardiology 101 408–417 The limits of endurance exercise
  2. ^ Matthew Algeo. The Insane 6-Day, 500-Mile Race That Riveted America, Mental Floss, December 22, 2015
  3. ^ "Campbelltown Australian 6 Day Race". Deutsche Ultramarathon Vereinigung. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  4. ^ "Across the Years shared Aravaipa... - Across the Years - Facebook". facebook.com.
  5. ^ "Race Web Site".

External links[edit]


  • Ultramarathoning: The Next Challenge, by Tom Osler and Ed Dodd
  • Ultrarunning magazine
  • Multiday Running Magazine
  • King of the Peds, by P.S. Marshall